This is a rough day for me with pretty harsh symptoms from a cold virus. I’ve been careful and proactive because of my personal history with such things, so I’m not feeling dead or wishing I were. Still, I’m dozing off more than usual and lacking my typical energy level. So I’ll stick with something simple. I’ve covered it before but it fits right in with recent posts.
One of the most blasphemous things Western Christians do is treat the US Constitution as sacred. It’s a twisted idea that it was written on biblical principles. The Bible is an Eastern document written by Eastern minds. Jesus Christ was an Eastern man and Christianity is an Eastern religion. “Eastern” here means inherently mystical in approach. The US Constitution is, at best, a rationalist Enlightenment document resting on a radically different assumptions about reality. Further, I contend that the Constitution was designed to fail, but that’s another story. The point is that the whole concept of “rule of law” arises from heathen mythology. Don’t try to force this crap back into the Bible.
So when we look at Romans 13, you’ll get a lot of crap from American Christians about our moral duties to bow the knee to secular law. Not every specific law, of course, but the system on which current civil law rests. And it’s no surprise the government officials soberly insist that it is our “Christian duty” to obey them in every detail. Again: It’s blasphemy.
Put it back into its proper context; read the whole chapter.
Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:7-8 NKJV)
We might debate just what Paul means by “the law” at the end of verse 8, but in the context it seems to point to civil law. Paul was known to defy Roman edicts that were contrary to the command of God. He did so because of his commitment to the agape in his soul by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. He was willing to face the legal consequences for it, as well, because of that same overwhelming commitment to compassion. He never whined about jails and whipping except to use that same Roman law as leverage against someone who didn’t understand what Paul was doing in the first place (Acts 16:35-40, 22:25-27). Further, he used pagan Roman law against his own nation’s law (Acts 25:9-12).
Do you believe assassination is immoral? You would be wrong — see Judges 3. Ehud broke the law, but acted morally correct. Granted, it seems to our Westernized minds a rather murky legal situation compared to ours today, but it remains that Ehud defied those in authority over him and led a rebellion that God blessed. It was preceded by humility, confession and prayer. The whole scene would not have been necessary had Israel obeyed the applicable covenant. Eglon’s reign rested on a legal system much closer to Israel’s than anything in existence today. My point is that we have even more reason to disobey today.
And yet we generally play by the rules because that’s what Romans 13 was all about in the first place. We aren’t lawless, but hold to a much higher law of God. That law rests on agape, a Greek word meant to convey that overwhelming warmth and communion with all Creation that comes from living in your heart, not in your head. We aren’t looking for an excuse to cause trouble just because we live under horrendous heathen laws. We look for ways to exploit loopholes to manifest God’s glory. In this, we have fulfilled our whole duty to human civil law — “Love works no ill to its neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10). Standing accused by human civil authority does not mean you have disobeyed God.
And only in the heathen moral blindness of Western thinking does that kind of love exclude the use of physical force. If I love my family, I’ll attack and kill anyone who threatens them. If I love my fellow believer, I’ll do the same for them. And I will have to leave room in my mind for helping someone evade arrest if such assistance is demanded by moral conscience (1 Samuel 20; Acts 9:23-25). Unlikely, but I have to give it room. By the same token, given my background and skills, I can’t promise you that there won’t come a time I might kill or assassinate someone because it seems God is behind it. Nor can I exclude any number of things ostensibly illegal when I know that the laws are contrary to God’s revelation. However, those would have to extraordinary situations, and I will stand ready to face the consequences.